The “National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA)” filed a petition in The Supreme Court to legally recognize people who fall outside the male/female gender binary, including people who identify as ‘Third Gender.’ The judgement in this case was passed on 15th April 2014.
Later, in 2019 the Parliament of India passed “The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act”. The major objectives of this Act were to ensure the protection of fundamental rights of transgenders, their welfare and other related matters. The Act prohibits any kind of discrimination against the transgender persons in the country. It ensures them right of residence, education, employment and health care.
Advocate, Satyasri Sharmila, the first transgender lawyer in India expressed her views on the plight of transgender in India. She said, “I have had a tough childhood as there was no acceptance from my family and the society. I was subjected to physical and sexual abuse because of my identity. But I continued to pursue my education with great determination and complete my LLB in 2007. I could not enrol myself as a transgender lawyer as there was no provision for it during that time. I persistently worked towards getting myself enrolled as a Transgender lawyer. In 2018, the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu responded to my request and on 30th June 2018 I was enrolled as India’s first transgender lawyer.”
Talking of the challenges faced by transgenders in their lives, Sathyasri said, transgender children leave their homes at a very young age. They are subjected to physical and sexual abuse either by their own family members or men around them. After running away from home, they come in contact with the transgender groups. These groups largely earn their living by begging or by going into sex work. Hence these kids are also pushed into the same line. This leads to various health issues. The transgenders are deprived of their basic fundamental rights like right to education, employment, heath care; they are also deprived of a proper residence. They have to reside in slums where they are again subjected to harassment and discrimination.
The NALSA judgement according to her was indeed a landmark judgement as it gave them the freedom to self-recognize their gender. It brought about some awareness among the government officials. On the basis of the judgement they could challenge the court on matters that violated their rights. Even though the judgement was a landmark decision, there are loopholes in its implementation. It was implemented effectively in some of the states, but there were many states where-in no action was taken and the transgender people continued to suffer.
The transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act of 2019” has done no good to the transgenders in the country, she says. It has a very vague definition of a transgender person. Their right of self-recognition is taken away in this act. The transgender now has to go to the district magistrate’s office to get them certified as a transgender person. Overall, she says the act is unclear on many fronts like ensuring education, employment, health care facilities. The community is dissatisfied with the act. They think their needs are not taken into consideration before passing the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act of 2019.
The community has suffered the most during the lockdown period. As mentioned above, they largely depend on begging and sex work to earn their living. During the lockdown, both were not allowed. This made it difficult for them to make the ends meet. According to Sathyasri many transgenders also attempted suicide as they had no means to earn and people did not support them in any way.
Sathyasri opined that it is high time we treat the transgenders at par with the men and women. The government needs to sensitize its officials, school teachers, and also parents about transgenders. She suggested that there should be one transgender person on board in the school committee so that children can be counselled in an appropriate manner.
Sheethal Nayak was born and raised in Pondicherry. She then moved to Goa to pursue her graduation in engineering. It is here that she opened up about her transgender identity. Currently she runs an organisation in Pondicherry name ‘Sahodaran Foundation’. It works towards the welfare of the transgender community in Pondicherry.
She says, “Children who realize in school that they are neither a boy nor a girl drop out of the school after 6th or 7th standard because they are subjected to sexual harassment. They elope from their homes, are unable to pursue education. Hence are not considered eligible for any job. With zero acceptances from the society, they are left with no option but to beg or go for sex work.
The NALSA judgement of 2014 and The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) of 2019 has not done much for the community. There were loopholes in the implementation of the act. In Pondicherry none of the government officials are aware about passing of such a judgement and the act. The Transgenders in the country are still not protected from any kind of atrocities inflicted upon them. The Act of 2019 is forced upon us. Our demands and our needs are not taken into consideration at all.”
Talking about the lockdown period Sheethal said that she felt good about the lockdown period because begging and sex work both was not allowed. This relieved the transgenders from all kinds of harassments. She says that they managed through the lockdown period with NGOs and some people coming forward to provide them with food and daily essentials. The elderly transgenders and the ailing ones suffered through this time due to unavailability of medications.
For the future, Sheethal hopes that the Transgender community will be able to become more open and secure. The most important goal is that the Indian laws will provide safety and equal rights for the community.
Goachronicle.com opined that the plight of transgender in India must be heard and addressed appropriately by the government. It has been ages that this marginalised community have been subjected to all kinds of discrimination and harassment by the society. It is high time that the transgender people must be ensured with their fundamental rights.